Sunday, March 22, 2009

Trader Joes: Overrated! Give me a Rouses.

I don’t feel that my grocery buying habits are very different from the average American’s. I go to the grocery store once a week and typically prepare food at home for my weeknight meals. I try to focus my grocery buying to the outer wall of the store, buying fresh produce, meats, dairy, and bread. I try to steer away from the prepared and frozen foods but do have weaknesses for the convenience of frozen stir fry vegetables, canned soup, the occasional frozen pizza, and hot pockets (my drunk food). I do most of my grocery shopping at Kroger but have been also known to hit the Harris Teeter and Whole Foods. I do not like shopping at Publix because I feel that it’s overpriced. Nashville finally got a Trader Joe’s and I’ve always heard people rave about it, so I decided to stop in and check it out. After about five minutes in the place, I just wanted to put my shopping basket down and get the hell out of there.

I didn’t have a very extensive grocery list. I needed to get some basic staples and thought this would be a simple task. I was so wrong. The first issue was the spice section of the store was absolutely terrible. I needed to pick up a few seasonings for a pork dish I was planning on making. TJ didn’t even have sea salt. What kind of grocery store doesn’t have salt? It was already obvious I was going to have to supplement this trip with a stop at Kroger.

The second issue I had was around the meat section of the store. It’s small and there are no butchers or fishmongers visible. All of the meat is prepackaged. Most of the grocery stores I worked in did their butchering in house. Did TJ have an actual butcher that worked there or did it come in already wrapped in cellophane?

My third issue was that the store seemed to revolve around convenience. There were a ton of frozen heat-and-eat meals, which I don’t eat and lots of frozen meats. These are things I typically do not buy.

I will give TJ credit when it comes to produce. They don’t have an extensive selection, but it looked fresh and the prices were good. They also had a great selection of healthy snacks like nuts and dried fruits. I’m not a giant snacker, but if I was this would be appealing. They did have a great beer selection.

My verdict: The abundance of heat-and-eat foods and snacks reminded me of a convenience store. I wasn’t shocked when I found out that TJ’s had its roots in the Pronto Market convenience store chain. Thus, I feel that TJ’s was a convenience store with a produce section. I’m going to stay the course and make my groceries at Kroger. I just wish people in Nashville would get behind getting a Rouses here. They have the best business model in my opinion. The key word is local. The stores are locally owned and operated and sell locally grown produce, locally grown meat, and locally caught seafood (not an option in TN).

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